Thick incense smoke clouds the grimy television-repair shop, the last storefront still open on this rundown neighborhood block. Junked televisions and broken VHS players sit stacked on shelves, blanketed in a heavy layer of dust. A dingy section of artificial grass serving as a rug covers the cracks in the cement floor. Inside the crowded back storage room, across from a cheap plastic computer desk, a twin mattress lies upright against the back wall.
This is the home and office of self-professed Guru Wiley Brooks, a spiritual teacher with an unusual temple and an even stranger philosophy.
“Believe it or not, of all the space on the planet, this is a very special vortex,” Wiley says. “This is why nobody knows what’s happening, because they certainly don’t expect a guy living in the back of a TV shop to be anyone important.”
Wiley drops his lanky frame onto the desk chair and squints intently behind his wire-rimmed glasses to focus on the computer screen. As he talks, he navigates through his website—www.breatharian.com—to illustrate the specifics of his diet, the basis of his New-Age breatharian philosophy.
“This whole process, including how I live, is the only thing that’s kept me going all these years,” he explains in a deadpan tone. “People cannot imagine how powerful this is.”
At over six-feet tall and around 125 pounds, Wiley is a spry 74-year-old with sparse white hair and dark skin, which looks thinly stretched across his sunken cheeks.
His appearance seems to run counter to his all junk-food diet. For the past five years he has dined exclusively on McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounders with cheese, fries and Diet Coke. Nothing else, ever. He claims the diet is the reason for his long, healthy life.
Sound crazy? That’s what Wiley thought too, at first. That was, until he discovered the secret of the burgers.
Meet Wiley Brooks: spiritual teacher, inter-dimensional traveler and founder of the Scottsdale-based Breatharian Institute of America.
Never heard of it? You’re not alone.
Breatharianism is a rather obscure philosophy in which believers claim food and water are unnecessary and that humans can live solely on air and sunlight. By permanently abstaining from food or drink, followers purport to have expanded their consciousness to the point where they can absorb all the nutrients their bodies need through breathing. According to experts, a side effect of this method also typically involves death due to starvation, but more on that later.
Wiley Brook’s personal brand of breatharianism is quite different.
A former vegetarian, Wiley calls himself one of the first “black hippies.” Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, he experimented with various New-Age fads including fasting and other undisclosed popularities. In the late ‘70s, he first made national news by claiming he did not need to eat or drink and that he slept just one hour a night.
Over time, he said he learned that the longer he went without eating, the stronger he became. In 1981, he demonstrated his “superhuman strength” by lifting 1,100 pounds, nearly ten times his body weight, on the television show “That’s Incredible!” In the ‘80s he also appeared on the “Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder,” preaching his breatharian philosophy.
Unfortunately, Wiley’s credibility took a blow in 1983 when he was spotted at a Santa Cruz 7-Eleven munching on a Slurpee, hot dog and Twinkies. After that, his philosophy of breatharianism changed. Wiley claimed that being surrounded by the “junk culture” of our three-dimensional world had required him to occasionally consume junk food to create balance. Breatharians contend that the air and sunlight they consume must be pure, which is why sometimes they cannot get the proper nutrition from polluted environments and must occasionally eat.
Of course if he “lived in a cave,” Wiley would have no need to eat, he says. But in order to stay connected to our world, he was forced to adopt an alternative of the breatharian philosophy that includes an all junk-food diet.
“For years I’ve been doing this, and the people who knew about me for years thought I was a fake or a liar because I said I didn’t eat and they saw that I was eating,” he says. “The confusion over the years for the world has been that people think that breatharians in their natural environment can live on breath alone—which is absolutely a fact. When I came here, I came as a person that didn’t eat either. Then I found out, as I evolved in life, that I had to eat.”
In the 1980s, Wiley established the Breatharian Institute of America in Scottsdale because he says the Valley is a holy place. “Everywhere on the planet there are vortexes. There are energy consciousnesses,” he says. “Phoenix is a very good area to be in. It’s one of the main places of energy.”
For the past five years, Wiley has lived his life as if he was starring in an extended mini-series of the Supersize Me movie. Each day he eats only McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder burgers with cheese and Diet Coke, which he calls the “elixir of light.” He claims his special fast-food diet, and meditation, has made him an immortal.
“You’ll notice with my diet what I highly recommend is no fruits and vegetables. Don’t eat anything but the McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with cheese and the Diet Coke,” Wiley says. “No water of any kind. No fruits and vegetables of any kind. No food of any kind from anywhere. You can take the french fries with the meal, but only with the meal. It’s that one package. It’s a consciousness package.”
Wiley says he discovered all of this because he happens to be able to travel to the “source of all creation in the world,” where apparently the higher beings are fans of the Happy Meal. And believe him, he was as shocked as anyone when he learned he could only eat burgers and fries.
“The last thing in the world that I would have thought of would have been burgers and Diet Coke, and that’s why the rest of the world is going to be in shock about this, and they are already,” Wiley says. “The consciousness is still being held down because everybody thinks that by eating fruits and vegetables and going natural and doing all the stuff that they think is good for them is doing exactly the opposite.”
Although he may certainly be the most colorful character associated with breatharianism, Wiley Brooks is not the first or only person to purport to possess the supernatural power to sustain without food or water. Among religious fakirs, godmen and yogis of India, breatharianism is a relatively common claim. Most, however, have ultimately been exposed as frauds.
One of the most well-known breatharians is Guru Jasmuheen from Australia. Born Ellen Greve, Jasmuheen, the former financial advisor and author of the book “Living on Light,” claims to go for months at a time without eating, sustaining solely on sunlight. She says the breatharian lifestyle will reverse the aging process and leave followers immortal.
In 1999, however, Jasmuheen’s claims were debunked when the Australian television show “60 Minutes” challenged her to demonstrate her methods for one week. Just four days into the study, the test was stopped when doctors monitoring her condition found Jasmuheen to be displaying symptoms of acute dehydration, stress and high blood pressure. Doctors concluded the experiment would ultimately prove fatal and cameras were turned off.
Jasmuheen challenged the results of the program, saying, “Look, 6,000 people have done this around the world without any problem.”
But while she claims thousands of followers, none have been able to verify living an extended period of time without food.
There are dozens of purported breatharians scattered around the world; most of them live in India, Poland and European countries. Wiley Brooks is the most prominent American breatharian. But of those who have attempted to follow a breatharian lifestyle, there have been numerous documented cases where people have suffered dire and sometimes fatal consequences, says Rick Ross, an expert on cults and founder of a research institute on cult organizations.
“If you don’t nourish your body for a long enough period of time, a doctor will tell you, you can walk away with organ damage,” Ross says. “There have been some tragedies associated with the breatharian group.”
Several breatharians have suffered death by starvation. In 1998, Lani Morris, a 53-year-old mother of nine from Melbourne, Australia, collapsed and died after going ten days without food or water as part of a 21-day initiation into breatharianism. Another breatharian follower, Timo Degen, a 31-year-old kindergarten teacher from Munich, Germany, fell into a coma and died after going 19 days without food.
In 1999, a 49-year-old Scotland resident Verity Linn died while adhering to a 21-day spiritual cleansing course advocated by Guru Jasmuheen. Linn’s body was found in a tent with nothing but a sleeping bag, her clothing and one of Jasmuheen’s books. After her death, Linn was awarded the Darwin Award, a tongue-in-cheek honor given to people who do a “service to humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool,” as a result of foolish or stupid actions.
As bizarre as the breatharian philosophy may seem, Ross says there is a cult mentality that drives followers.
“This is really quite serious. We’re talking about a group that has the potential for taking lives,” he says. “This group may seem eccentric and bizarre, but the most prominent feature of it is the health hazards that it represents.”
While breatharianism has remained largely on the fringe of even the most obscure New-Age philosophies, earlier this year it reemerged in the news when Indian military scientists began conducting tests on Prahlad Jani, an 83-year-old purported Indian holy man who claimed to have sustained for 65 years without food or water. Jani, who practices a special type of yoga and meditation, claims to have been blessed by a goddess at a young age, which gave him special powers.
During the study the yogi was sealed in a ward for fifteen days under constant surveillance by a team of 35 military medical staff until May 6, 2010, and reportedly did not eat, drink or go to the toilet once during that time. The doctors also claimed to have found that he was “more healthy than someone half his age.”
“We still do not know how he survives,” neurologist Sudhir Shah said at the end of the experiment. “It is still a mystery what kind of phenomenon this is.”
Doctors admitted they expected to observe notable loss of muscle mass, significant dehydration, weight loss and fatigue. Some even believed organ failure might occur—yet the mystic remained perfectly healthy.
“If Jani does not derive energy from food and water, he must be doing that from energy sources around him, sunlight being one,” Shah said. “As medical practitioners, we cannot shut our eyes to possibilities, to a source of energy other than calories.”
To become a true breatharian is a complex, life-altering process, says Jericho Sunfire, a breatharian personal fitness trainer in London. For the past 16 years, Sunfire, a former rugby player, has gone from being a fruitarian, to liquidarian, to waterian, and finally breatharian. He claims to have gone the past year and a half without eating.
“True breatharianism is food free and water, liquid free but people that have achieved this on a consistent basis are few and far between,” he says. “It’s a personal and often spiritual process with many lessons and tests or what I like to call initiations to pass before you can progress.”
The $10,000 Menu
In the back office of the television-repair shop, Wiley carefully spins a gold pendulum while meditating the five holy words.
“Jot Niranjan. Omkar. Rarankar. Sohang. Sat Nam,” he repeats in deep meditation.
For thirty years Wiley has been meditating on these words, which he says he learned during a visit to the fifth dimension.
Wiley says the meditation is vital to surviving the impending apocalypse. He claims that no one will survive beyond 2012, the legendary end date of the Mayan calendar, unless the world heeds his warnings.
“The most important thing the world has to know, and must know real soon, is that we are running out of time on this planet,” Wiley says. “It’s real serious—it has to do with several billion people’s lives.”
Fortunately, for humanity’s sake, Wiley holds the answers to the planet’s survival. And he will teach it to any prospective breatharians for the bargain price of $10,000. A payment plan is offered for his “empowered ascension workshops,” and clients must pay through a bank wire transfer. Wiley’s Bank of America account and routing numbers are also listed on his website. No refunds.
He used to charge $1 million for the services, but when he didn’t have many takers and since we’re approaching the impending apocalypse, the price of immortality has been significantly discounted. Wiley contends it is a fair price for his services.
“You go to a lawyer, you go to a doctor, especially if you’re facing problems in your life, you want to get the best lawyer or doctor you can get and you pay for it, no problem!” Wiley exclaims. “But for some reason, if they learn to live forever and be the happiest person in the universe, they think it should be free!”
“That’s third-dimensional logic for you,” Wiley chuckles.
Sadly, as a doomsday cult leader, Wiley hasn’t had much financial success. Over the years he has only taught about 20 people how to ascend to the fifth dimension, although he declined to say how profitable that has been.
“You think I’m staying here because I have a lot of clients?” he says as he glances around the tiny television-repair shop.
Fortunately, with the whole “destruction of the planet” thing hanging over the world’s head, Wiley has a plan to save the world, and fill his wallet.
“Since we have a limited time, if I get a couple of people to where I am, then we can contain the whole planet,” he says. “The composite power of these people will be enough to hold the Earth in place a little past the date so that other people can gradually catch up… but that takes money.”
So Wiley is willing to use his gifts to teach a few wealthy clients the secrets of immortality. He plans to use those profits to build a compound in New Mexico, where he can conduct mass initiations and convert the entire planet to his junk-food diet.
In addition, he has been doing his part to fend off the apocalypse by traveling around the country “anchoring light energy.” How does he accomplish this task?
“You know what animals do when they mark their territory?” Wiley smirks. “I have to do it.”
Seriously. He literally goes around urinating on everything.
“The energy passes through me and moves into the world. I do that all over the place,” Wiley says matter-of-factly. “I’ve been all over the place, on the buses with my backpack—everywhere. I mean, all the shopping malls, parks, everywhere in Phoenix.”
Shockingly, he says higher powers, and sharp bladder pains, told him this was the only method to heal the planet and prevent natural disasters.
“It’s so ridiculous in a way. It was a big shock to me,” Wiley says. “Just imagine, people would never believe that anybody who has the knowledge I have is pissing all over the place. You know? How do you tell that to someone?”